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Expectations Following LASIK Surgery

July, 2010

Series 4

Terry G. Voirin, D.O.

Everyone undergoing LASIK surgery expects to have wonderful results; certainly this is what all doctors work to achieve. But there are common side effects which many patients experience for up to 72 hours following surgery. Understanding what they are, and what routine post-operative care is required, will help you achieve the best possible outcome.

The LASIK surgery itself is pain free but some LASIK patients experience a scratchy feeling in the eye for a day or two following the procedure. Because a major concern following LASIK is dislodging the flap created at the time of surgery, your doctor will warn you against vigorous eye rubbing or other injuries to the surface of the eye. To help prevent this, you will be given an eye shield to be worn over your eye(s) to protect the cornea up to a week. You will also want to wear it when sleeping for the first few days after surgery.

Don't plan on driving yourself home after LASIK surgery because your vision will be blurry and your eyes very light sensitive. In some cases, patients feel uncomfortable driving for a day or two; other patients are driving again within 24 hours.

Take Care of Yourself

You can expect your doctor to review the post-operative medication regimen with you before, the day of, and after surgery. Plan to return to the doctor's office for an examination one day after surgery, one week after surgery and one month following surgery. Additional visits may be scheduled if necessary.

To minimize the risk of infection and post-operative discomfort, as well as to maximize the visual result of the LASIK procedure, your doctor may give you one or more types of eye drops. It is important for patients to comply faithfully with medication dosages and schedules. Usually they are needed for only a few weeks after LASIK, although in rare cases, medication may be required for up to several months.

You shouldn't plan to return to work until your doctor says it's OK, usually in a day or two. There may also be limitations on swimming, whirlpools or hot tubs, playing active sports and wearing eye makeup. You will also be cautioned to wear dark sunglasses in bright light outdoors so your eyes are more comfortable.

Glasses or Contacts Still May Be Needed

Although the vast majority of patients quickly experience marked vision improvement, some patients' best vision may not be realized for several weeks or even months after surgery. A long list of factors influence individual recovery. All refractive surgery, including LASIK, is performed in order to help patients reduce their dependence on glasses and/or contact lenses. No LASIK surgeon can guarantee 20/20 vision.

While the introduction of the excimer laser has improved the accuracy of refractive surgery, healing varies from patient to patient. It is not possible for any doctor to accurately predict how your eyes will respond to the treatment. Undercorrection is the most commonly noted "inaccuracy" and generally is very mild. Regression, in which the eye initially improves but returns to a level of nearsightedness within six months, can happen in 10% of patients.

Patients who do not have all of their nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism corrected by LASIK can elect to wear glasses or contact lenses or have additional 'enhancement' surgery. Generally, follow up surgery is not performed for at least three months following the original procedure.

Expect Some Side Effects

Along with the post-operative discomfort mentioned earlier, there are other rare side effects associated with LASIK, just as there are with any surgical procedure.

Mild glare and/or haloes at nighttime is a fairly common side effect that routinely dissipates over time. In rare cases, these symptoms may be severe and prolonged enough to require the use of eye drops that regulate the amount of light allowed into the cornea. Ptosis, or drooping of the upper eyelid, also can occur. Generally it is mild and disappears over several months. If it is severe and/or persistent, minor eyelid surgery may be required.

Always keep in mind that LASIK is an elective procedure. Certainly it can improve your ability to see without glasses or contact lenses but not everyone is a candidate for LASIK and, not all LASIK practices are equally experienced. To dramatically increase your chances of success, make sure you are well informed about LASIK technology and the surgeon putting it to use on your behalf. In the hands of an experienced doctor, the risks of LASIK are minimal and it just may be the very best thing you've ever done for yourself.

About the Author

Terry G. Voirin, D.O. provides comprehensive eye examinations and specializes in cataract and LASIK surgery at Wheaton Eye Clinic. Dr. Voirin is certified on both the VISX and the Wavelight Allegretto lasers. Learn more ...